Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) sought to cement national defense as a top priority Friday, saying that although he does not think the United States should be unnecessarily meddling overseas, it must defend itself from the Islamic State.

"We must protect ourselves from jihadists without losing ourselves as a people," the libertarian Paul said at the Conservative Political Action conference, where hawkish views have traditionally not been met with much enthusiasm. Paul said he envisions the nation having "a national defense unparalleled, undefeated and unencumbered by nation-building.”

When asked about criticism from conservatives about whether his foreign policy was tough enough, Paul, who railed against the nation's massive debt earlier in his speech, said that when looking at spending, "the priority is always national defense."

With an optimistic speech surmising that "America's best days are ahead of us," Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) garnered big applause and chants of "President Paul" at the 2015 Conservative Political Action Conference. (AP)

Paul warned that the national defense budget should not involve countries that buck America.

"We do not project strength" by borrowing money from China and sending it to Pakistan, he said. "Not one penny  more to these haters of America."

The prospective presidential candidate pitched the idea that there is a big tent when it comes to foreign policy ideas in the Republican Party.

"There is a spectrum," he said. "On one end there are people who believe we should never be anywhere outside our borders. There are people who believe we should be everywhere all the time."

Paul sought to draw a parallel between domestic and foreign policy; if things are not going well at home, he said, there's no way to guarantee that they will work abroad.

"We should not succumb to the notion that a government inept at home will somehow become successful abroad," he said. Paul said the U.S. most promote "stability, not chaos."

Paul described to a friendly audience that cheered "President Paul!"  a country where liberty is at risk, the right to privacy is under attack and freedom is threatened because of the nation's crippling debt.

To try to remedy that, Paul said he will propose the "largest tax cut in American history" that will "get the IRS out of your lives and out of the way of every job created in America."

The plan will cut spending and balance the budget within five years, Paul said.

He hammered Hillary Clinton, saying her handing of Benghazi amounted to "dereliction of duty" that should ban her from office.

"It's time for Hillary Clinton to permanently retire," he said.

Paul cited issues important to his libertarian base of support, including smaller government and the NSA.

"The phone records of law-abiding citizens are none of their damn business," Paul said of the government.